- Markandey Katju was born in 1946 in Lucknow, United Provinces, British India. Katju’s family consisted mainly of lawyers who took a keen interest in politics and current affairs.
- After completing his schooling in Allahabad, he taught in a small village for two years to gain a better understanding of what life in India’s villages was all about. Thereafter, he studied to become a lawyer.
- He was awarded Honoris Causa a Doctor of Philosophy from Lal Bahadur Shastri Sanskrit University, New Delhi, for his book Mimansa Rules of Interpretation, and a Honorary Doctorate of Law from Banaras Hindu University.
- He is an Honorary Professor of Law at the National Law University, Delhi and Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia National Law University, Lucknow. Katju’s background is related to law and politics.
- His father was S. N. Katju, formerly a Judge of the Allahabad High Court.His grandfather Dr. Kailash Nath Katju, was one of India’s leading lawyers and participated in the country’s freedom movement.
- Dr. K. N. Katju was the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, the Governor of West Bengal and Odisha, as well as the Union Law, Home and Defence Minister.Katju’s uncle was B.N. Katju, the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court.
- Katju started his law practice at the Allahabad High Court in 1970 and continued practising and rising up the ranks from 1970 to 1991.
- He was appointed acting Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court in August 2004, Chief Justice of Madras High Court in November 2004, and Chief Justice of Delhi High Court in October 2005. He was elevated to the Supreme Court of India in April 2006.
- He retired from this position on 19 September 2011, after serving the Indian judiciary for nearly 40 years. He thereafter served as the Chairman of the Press Council of India for three years.
- His courtroom was one of the fastest in the Supreme Court disposing of 100-plus matters in a week.
- Addressing a seminar organised by the South Asia Media Commission, and subsequently in several articles and interviews Katju has said that “90 percent of Indians are idiots” and “20 percent Hindus and 20 percent Muslims are communal”.
- He later claimed that it was meant to awaken people to the realities of social evils like casteism, communalism in the country.Katju landed in legal trouble for his anti Odia remark on facebook page on 10 October 2016 after a SDJM court in Odihsa admitted a petition over his remark.
- The Supreme Court on 17 October 2016 summoned former judge Markandey Katju for insinuating that the top court had “grievously erred” by not imposing death penalty on Govindachamy in the Soumya rape-murder case.
- The top court has asked Katju to explain on 11 November 2016 how and where it went wrong in not imposing death sentence on Govindachamy.
- “He (Justice Katju) is a respected gentleman. We request him to come in person and debate his Facebook post criticising the judgment. Let him come to the court and let’s debate over the fundamental flaws in our verdict,” a bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice U U Lalit said and issued a notice to Justice Katju.
- In May 2011, Katju directed Trial/High courts to award death sentences to perpetrators of “honour killings”.
- In January 2009, while hearing a petition filed by Archbishop Raphael Cheenath about violence against Christians in Orissa, Katju observed, “We can’t tolerate persecution of religious minorities.
- In May 2009, Katju commented that a husband has to accept the suggestion of a wife irrespective of the fact whether it is sensible or not.
- In July 2009, Katju apologised for commenting, during the hearing of a case, that students cannot insist on wearing beards as this would lead to the “Talibanisation” of India. .
- In Prafull Goradia V. Union of India, a bench of the Supreme Court comprising also Katju, dismissed petitioner’s claim that Haj subsidies provided by the Government of India were unconstitutional.
- Following this judgement, in the case of Md Sukur Ali Vs State of Assam, a division Bench of Katju and Justice Mishra ruled that criminal defendants have a right to counsel. “Article 21 which guarantees protection of life and personal liberty is the most important of all the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the constitution,” the apex court bench said.
- Katju’s opinion in D. Velusamy vs D. Patchaiammal, delivered on 21 October 2010, relating to the maintenance of a woman in a livein relationship, was the first time the apex court laid the legal framework for recognizing a woman’s rights in a live-in relationship.
- Katju issued notices to the Centre and state governments directing them to file compliance reports on steps taken to rehabilitate sex workers in the case of Budhadev Karmaskar vs State of West Bengal. The accused had brutally murdered a sex worker and claimed leniency in his petition in the Supreme Court, citing the victim’s profession. The court dismissed the petition, stating that “prostitutes have a right to live with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.” The court further observed that “This is a case of brutal murder of a sex worker. Sex workers are human beings and no one has a right to assault or murder them.”
- On 8 March 2011, Katju delivered a “landmark” judgement legalizing passive euthanasia—or withdrawal of life-support systems—for patients who are brain dead or in a permanent vegetative state, and whom doctors have lost hope of reviving even with the most advanced medical aid.
- On 16 March 2010, in an unusual step, Katju appealed to Pakistan to consider granting remission to Gopal Dass, an Indian prisoner detained in the Lahore central jail for 27 years. He based this appeal on humanitarian grounds.
- On 13 May 2011, a Supreme Court bench involving Katju said that fake encounters are nothing but cold-blooded brutal murders which should be treated as the rarest of rare cases and police personnel responsible for it should be awarded death sentence.
- On 17 June 2011, Katju made a personal appeal to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to release on “humanitarian grounds” Khalil Chishty, an elderly Pakistani virologist in Indian prison since 1992.
- Subsequently, in February 2012, the Supreme Court acquitted Khalil Chishti of the 20-year-old murder charge and allowed Chishti to return to Pakistan.
- In February 2013, Katju was involved in a war of words with the BJP when over his controversial remarks on the involvement of Narendra Modi in the 2002 Gujarat Violence.